Airport workers still waiting on wage raises

Stephon Johnson | 8/2/2018, 11:05 a.m.
The raises should have happened by now, according to local airport workers.
Airport

The raises should have happened by now, according to local airport workers.

New York and New Jersey airport workers have urged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Board of Commissioners at its July meeting to expedite approval of a proposal to raise wages to $19 by 2023 for their security officers, baggage handlers, wheelchair agents, terminal cleaners and airport workers.

New York airport workers currently make at least $13 an hour. New Jersey airport workers would see an $8.45 raise and achieve pay parity with New York airport workers by September 2019.

Workers were hoping to see wage increases by this summer. June 28, the board, however, invoked an additional 30-day comment period to examine issues that came up during the current comment period. As of right now, the workers are still waiting.

Desmond Grant, a wheelchair assistant at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, said the new wage policy will change the lives of all airport workers in the tristate area.

“This will have a huge, positive impact for 40,000 of us, and for me in particular,” Grant said in a statement. “Making $19 an hour means I won’t have to constantly look for that second job just so I can make ends meet. It will mean I’ll be able to pay my bills on time.”

Stephania Zanabria, a wheelchair attendant at LaGuardia Airport, told board members she and her co-workers are putting their faith in them.

“A $19 an hour minimum wage will help me go back to school and get an apartment,” she said.

Local airport workers have spent the past several years pushing for a wage raise using the Fight for $15 movement to boost their cause and profile after spending time attempting to organize. In 2016, about half of the New York and New Jersey airport workers (who had union recognition with 32BJ) negotiated their first contract, which now provides workplace rights and protections such as seniority rules, scheduling protocols, disciplinary procedures and health and safety guidelines.

In 2012, airport workers at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports linked up with members of 32BJ SEIU to fight for better wages and benefits. Workers staged multiple walkouts during major holidays and travel seasons and have kept up the pressure on their bosses to help them make ends meet. After winning the right to organize and join 32BJ, airport workers looked to the Port Authority to raise wages. They’re still waiting.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his appointed Port Authority board members blocked wage increases for airport workers. Current New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who share control of the Port Authority, insist the raises will happen. Marlon Anderson, a cabin cleaner at Newark Liberty International Airport, told board members at the meeting that they can’t wait any longer.

“Pass the $19 minimum wage now,” Anderson said. “By passing the wage increase, you show that you value our contributions to Newark, LaGuardia, JFK airports. Finally, we can support our families and serve passengers to the best of our ability.”